Aaron Nola delivered seven innings of one-run ball, but the Phillies hitters did not deliver enough offense in a damaging 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night.
The loss dropped the Phillies to 3 ½ games back in the NL wild-card chase with just 15 games to play.
Incredibly, the Phillies are winless in Nola's last five starts. That can't happen in a playoff chase.
Nola and Boston lefty Eduardo Rodriguez hooked up in a tight pitchers' duel. The teams traded runs in the seventh inning and the Red Sox went ahead against Hector Neris in the ninth. Neris allowed two singles, a one-out walk and a tie-breaking sacrifice fly to Andrew Benintendi.
The Phillies had just five hits in the game and went 0 for 5 with a runner in scoring position. They had a runner on second with no outs in the eighth but the top half of the batting order could not get him home.
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The right-hander rebounded from two straight shaky outings and delivered a gem. He rolled through the first six innings and allowed just three base runners, and none got past second base.
In the seventh, Nola wore down a little. He allowed a walk and a base hit to open the frame before Christian Vazquez smacked a curve ball to the gap to break a scoreless tie.
Nola then walked Jackie Bradley Jr., to load the bases.
With his pitch count rising toward 100, Nola was able to get out of the jam. He got a force at the plate for the second out then struck out the opposing pitcher Rodriguez for the third out.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora let Rodriguez hit with the bases loaded because he was at just 80 pitches and still had gas in the tank. Suffice it to say, Nola was happy with Cora's decision. The Red Sox had Benintendi, Brock Holt and Mookie Betts on the bench as potential pinch-hit options. Cora put Benintendi to good use in the ninth.
Rodriguez coughs up lead
Rodriguez almost made his skipper look good for sticking with him. After allowing a leadoff single to Bryce Harper to open the bottom of the seventh, the lefty struck out Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery, who together swung at five pitches outside the strike zone. Kingery went down swinging at three changeups out of the zone.
Rodriguez was one strike away from getting out of the inning when he hit Adam Haseley with a pitch to load the bases. That brought up Maikel Franco. He worked a full count then took ball four to force home the tying run.
Rodriguez then exited and lefty Josh Taylor struck out pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin as the score remained tied at 1-1.
Trouble with the change
Rodriguez threw 105 pitches and got 19 swings-and-misses, 16 of them on his changeup. Phillies hitters did a lot of chasing outside of the strike zone and stuck out 12 times in 6 2/3 innings against Rodriguez.
Over the last three seasons, the Red Sox are 13-0 when Rodriguez starts an interleague game.
And another one
Catcher J.T. Realmuto showed off his quick release once again in gunning down his 37th attempted base stealer of the season. That's the most in the majors. No Phillies catcher has thrown out more in a season since Darren Daulton gunned down 40 in 1993.
Back in early August, Franco was sent to the minors. One of the reasons given for the demotion was his lack of success hitting left-handed pitching. Entering this game, Franco was 4 for 6 with a double and a homer against left-handed pitching since his return from the minors. That earned him the start against Rodriguez.
The Phillies will send lefty Jason Vargas (6-7, 4.31) to the mound Sunday afternoon. He will face right-hander Rick Porcello (12-12, 5.83).
The Phillies flip-flopped Vargas and Vince Velasquez in the rotation. Velasquez will pitch Tuesday night in Atlanta. Manager Gabe Kapler said he made the move because Atlanta was so familiar with Vargas. Vargas lasted just three innings Tuesday night against Atlanta. The Phillies ended up winning that game, 6-5.
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